It takes a lot of courage and sometimes a bit of craziness to be a professional hockey defenseman, blocking shots, throwing hits and the like. You could even say it’s a little Koekkoek, Slater that is. The Syracuse Crunch rookie defenseman has been adjusting well to the pro-style game and has helped the team to become one of the top outfits in the Eastern Conference.
Koekkoek has been improving each month offensively, registering two points in October before scoring his first professional goal on November 1 at Binghamton in a Crunch win. Throughout November he recorded three points, one goal and two assists and had his best month to date in December, where he notched another goal and four assists. His offensive totals will continue to gradually increase as he becomes more accustomed to the AHL.
Syracuse Assistant Coach Stacy Roest has noticed improvement in the young defender’s game. “He is learning to jump up into the rush when the time is right,” Roest said. He also mentioned Koekkoek’s willingness to learn and improve his game. When asked whether he preferred Koekkoek’s offensive numbers or his plus/minus, Roest laughed and responded, “I like the plus-eight.” Both aspects are important to a defenseman, but taking care of your own end comes first.
The Lightning selected Koekkoek in the first round, 10th overall, at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He is seen as a big, solid defenseman at 6-2 and 197lbs. He is a strong skater who has good offensive upside without taking away from his responsible defensive play as noted through his plus-minus of plus-8.
Before joining the ranks of the American Hockey League, Koekkoek served as the captain for the Windsor Spitfires throughout his last year in the Ontario Hockey League. He managed to put some gaudy numbers for a defenseman, with 15 goals and 53 points through 62 games. He lead the teams d-corps in points and also ranked fourth overall while finishing seventh among OHL defenders.
Koekkoek spent the majority of his OHL career with the Peterborough Petes before joining the Spitfires at the midway mark of the 2012-13 season. He skated in 131 games with the Petes, notching 18 goals and 69 points.